Masonic Boom

"Crazy" "Oversensitive" "Feminazi" "Bitch" bloggin' bout pop music, linguistics and mental health issues

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Men In Music

OMG you guys, I have only just discovered, this is totally a thing! Did you know this exciting and totally new development in music that I've only just recently become aware of? Men! that is, the people with Y chromosomes (usually) and external genitals (mostly), that make up about 49% of the human race? They totally make music! You might not know it from reading the articles on this blog, or the best of lists as routinely voted by our readers, but they do!!!!

I'm writing this article because, I was putting together my end of year list, like all of us music critics start to do around the beginning of November (even though it will make us miss all the pop albums released in mid December to capitalise on Xmas sales) and oh, I've been having so much fun getting out all the records I've been loving all year long, rediscovering some that came out earlier this year that I'd almost forgotten about (Subeena! Deniz Kurtel! Barbara Panther!) and shuffling the consensus critical darlings to try and figure out what order my top 3 should go (Katy B over PJ Harvey? Or St Vincent above both?) and what underrated gems I should personally stake my critical reputation on stanning for (Drugstore? Planningtorock? Zavoloka?)

And then it struck me! My list! That is nine ladies already!

I don't want people to think that I am some kind of biased! (Even though I totally do listen to almost exclusively female artists because: PERSONAL TASTE! Sacrosanct! Even when "personal taste" is just code for "I only like artists that look like me.") I'd better find a male artist to stick at the bottom of my top 10 to prove that I am totally not a misandrist at all, ever. (And, of course, ~only~ 1, because to include more than 10% total males in any cultural evaluation would totally be patronising tokenism. Of the absolutely worst kind.)

Men! They have actually made some music this year! Unlike all those other years! In fact, I might even suggest that 2011 might indeed be called The Year Of The Man in rock music, because I have found not one, but THREE examples of records, made by men, that I might want to include in my top ten.

THE RADIOHEADS - King of Limbs

The Radioheads are massive in the Man community. This is like their 8 millionth album or something! Dudes just cannot get enough of this band, they are apparently fucking huge. Of course, I can't really be bothered to sift through all that shit so I just flicked through the Best Of compilation, because, what with the whole "always singing about Man Issues" business I can't really relate to or even bring myself to care about and all, but I am reliably informed that this band are the go-to boys when you want representation of the issues affecting young, heterosexual, cis, white men in the Western Hemisphere today.

AZARI & iii - s/t

It took me literally about six months to discover that their name isn't pronounced "Azari and Ai Ai Ai" it's pronounced "Azari and Third." That is fucking clever. So clever, in fact, I cannot believe that an actual man came up with it. But, you know, those men, they are so good with words because I read in a book once that men are the more verbal gender, as Proven By Science, so of course we should always talk about their name, and their lyrics and you know, man-friendly stuff like that, because we know that technical stuff is hard for them and I don't like to think about them doing it because it makes me feel bad. And also their clothes! (check out those shorts! so hott and totally intended for the benefit my Gaze and no other reason at all ever)

Active Child - You Are All I See

Dude plays a HARP! Look at that! I mean, how many dudes do you know that play the harp? Everybody knows that the Harp is a Lady Instrument, but this dude, he is SO GOOD, he totally plays harp LIKE A LADY. And that is the highest compliment I can pay a man.

So this is the Man Scene in music today. Dudes! Totally making music, all by themselves and everything. They were all delighted to be included and talk about their roles in The Man Scene for this article because they sensibly realised that if they don't go along with these gunnysacking male roundup articles, they won't get coverage on their own, or included with other artists closer to their genres. Because genre and gender? They are totally the same thing, look they even have the same letters. Genre/Gender. Do you see what I did there? Anyway, I interviewed all these man-bands for my Men In Music article, and we talked about how much they have in common! Coz they all do kinda sound alike to me, because their singers (never mind the music, I'm going to concentrate on the singing because I'm threatened to think of men doing technical stuff like producing music) - get this - they all sing in a totally new and exciting man-way - that's right! All three artists are really well known for their use of the male falsetto. And this makes them totally non-threatening to us ladies! And relate to them with their lady-sounding voices and their lady-friendly style. It's totally cool, it's officially OK for ladies to like these bands without compromising our Femininity.

And just to show you that I know something about the history of man-music, I'm going to compare them to the only other man who I've ever bothered listening to, because he was admitted to the canon back in the 60s and I don't have to put too much effort into finding any other icons of masculinity in rock. (Despite the previous 20 years worth of one magazine article every year about "Men In Rock" and things like Man Fest and all those organisations dedicated to promoting Anyway, to me, they TOTALLY SOUND LIKE HIM, in every way, but especially the singing real high bit. That's right, all these Man Bands of 2011, they all owe SO MUCH to this singular icon, who's cast such a long shadow that I cannot conceive of male artists being influenced by anyone else. (Because we all know it is completely impossible for artists to ever be influenced by someone of another gender, ever, so we can never ever compare across the gender boundaries.)

That's right, it's the Kate Bush of Man-Rock

So there you have it, ladies and the rare gentleman reader who I know doesn't really care about music or blogging or ~real~ culture, but I'm hoping to impress with how much I understand and relate to your sex's music making abilities. The Man Scene of 2011, the children of Roy Orbison's long shadow. The Radioheads, Azari and III, and Active Child. I hope that men everywhere can continue to be inspired by their groundbreaking work, so I can write one of these articles every few years.

Anyway, so I now have to decide which of these worthy men to include in my Best of 2011 list. The safe choice would be The Radioheads, but like... you know, all the other ladies keep talking about how hott their lead singer is. Because that is the single most important thing when you are talking about male artists, how conventionally attractive they are, whether they make a good sex object for the female gaze. And I just don't see it. He's done something really tragic to his hair, and I cannot actually conceive of appreciating a man for his musical ability, rather than thinking about how much I want to sleep with him. Or not. This socially awkward and rather unattractive blogger does not want to fuck you, ergo, you are no good at all.

Next up would be Azari and III, but looking at that photo - OMG, I have just noticed there are black people in that band. And I already have a black woman in my top 10 list! It would totally be patronising tokenism to include more than one black artist in my Best Of, and since they have the double whammy of being both male and black, well, Azari just have to go. Intersectionality is just way too big a word, let alone concept for my poor little blogging head to grasp. Also, I have just been informed that they might be, you know, gay? And although I have nothing against homosexual men, especially when they are hot and snogging for my titillation in my porn, I'm sorry but the idea of ~actual~ gay men? Taking them seriously? Come on, they don't really exist. I call Unicorns!

So that was easy! That leaves Active Child to take over the coveted last spot in my Top 10.

And I have now adequately covered the ENTIRE spectrum of Men In Music so thoroughly that I can go back to covering only women for the next 51 weeks of the year - next week, we'll be putting Kate Bush on the cover for the third time this year, not because she has a record out, but just because SHE. IS. AWESOME. Also, you know, it's just... my blog's stats just do so poorly whenever I put a man on the cover - see, it's not me refusing to cover men, it's just the demographic target market of my ~audience~ just can't handle being exposed to them.

So there you have it. Remember. Men In Rock. It might just be the future.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


I'm tired. In point of fact, I'm exhausted. I've been having the same conversations now for 25 years, and I just don't have the energy to do it any more right now.

I've been involved in music since I was in my mid teens. (Don't tell the local nightclubs where I used to see bands!) I am, first and foremost, a fan. An obsessive music fan. I have also been a musician, first an amateur, then a professional touring musician, a session player, a music journalist (for them there print magazines as well as the interweb ones) I've DJ'd, I've run clubs, I've booked bands, I've produced records, I've done radio shows. During this time, I've made a lot of contacts in the music industry, so I've got to know people who work at record companies, people who run record companies, run music festivals, book international tours, and do PR and press campaigns. In short, I think, by this point, I have won the right to call myself a bit of an expert.

And for 25 years, literally from the first time I walked into the soundcheck for my very first gig, I have been having one particular conversation. The Why Don't More Women... Do X?" conversation. I have not had this conversation once or twice. I haven't had it 20 or even 50 times. I have had this conversation, or variants on it, hundreds of times. (4 times a year for 25 years? I'm estimating a bit low, to be honest.)

The thing is, when you have a conversation, literally, a hundred times, you start to notice the patterns in the responses. You start to notice the excuses, the justifications, the "it's just a coincidence!" in the other side's arguments which turn out to be not coincidences at all, but a systematic, structural level inequality. Which is often so deeply engrained that people actually think of it as somehow biologically determined, rather than a cultural bias - even when the actual form the structure takes changes from culture to culture. (Or even, on a highly localised level, from music scene to music scene. This is something you learn when you are in a touring band, as opposed to staying in one scene your whole life. That the music scene in, say, Brighton, can be quite different from that in, say, Newcastle.)

However, when I am talking to a man about this, unless he's very clued up (Yes! I can reliably tell you this! It is actually different when you have this conversation with, say, Everett True, than when you have it with a Random Dude On The Internet!) it is very often literally the *first* time he has ever had that conversation. He has never *had* to think about this issue, in the way that women who repeatedly find themselves the only female in the room have been forced to. (There's a word for that.)

And these men, who are having these conversations FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME deem themselves to be the Experts, on the Experiences of Women. Unlike the women who have actually lived these experiences, for many, many years. (There's a word for that, too.) And they get very, very pissed off, when you suggest to them that their carefully thought-out first explanations about why it's just ~natural~ that their magazine / club / gig / internet messageboard / film / top ten list is all male (or, if they consider themselves very, very progressive, 10 men to every woman) might be, well, something which is 1) not very original and more importantly 2) not very true.

And then they get annoyed because your pesky lived experiences directly contradict their assertions that 10 men for every woman is normal and natural because... MERITOCRACY!!! (If this is the case, why is it that panels of white men routinely produce "meritocracies" of all white men? And when women or PoC produce lists of women or PoC, that's not a "meritocracy" that's "OMG niche interests!") And they get angry because you will not waste another few hours of your life having that same damn conversation yet again because it's like bashing your head repeatedly against a brick wall. Because I've decided that it is officially no longer my job to have those conversations any more.

Yet, if you don't reply quick enough, they will claim that you, dear little woman, lose your right to call out sexism at all, ever again, because they are BUTTHURT that you called them a mansplainer. That's right. As my friend Jen put it, "Well obviously using a cheeky yet accurate portmanteau to summarise his position is just as bad as sexism." That whole "earning 80% of what men earn" thing. The whole rape culture thing. The whole Madonna/Whore dichotomy and the fact that your gender and sexuality will always be used to discredit you no matter what thing. That whole "hundreds of years of structural inequality, the not being able to vote or own property through 99% of history, and STILL, IN 20fucking11, being totally woefully inadequately represented in governments around the world" thing... ALL OF THAT, ALL OF THAT STUFF IS DIRECTLY EQUATABLE WITH THE TERRIBLE AND DEVASTATING ACT OF USING THE WORD "MANSPLAIN" TO DESCRIBE A DUDE'S BEHAVIOUR.

So, you know, I'm done with having this conversation. I really am. I would rather waste my time talking about Thom Yorke's hair and the Caledonian Orogeny and other brain-warping feats of nature.